Caring for Ducks in Winter
Now that we are truly in the midst of a cold New York winter, some things have changed for my little ducky children! No more warm days spent basking in the sun…no more frolicking under the spray of a garden hose…and no more nibbling on fresh dandelion greens from the yard. And I’ve had to change some of my duck care routine, too.
One of the biggest changes for me (and Arp, on the unlucky days that I send him our to harvest eggs) is that we often have to lug buckets of water from inside and bring it out to the ducks in the morning. Arp claims to me that he actually doesn’t mind carrying the water out, but I detest it myself. The reason we are now doing this is that the garden hose freezes when the temps go down.
Another affect of the freezing temperatures is that the ducks sometimes have to go without swimming for days at a time. That’s because their swimming pool often freezes, preventing swimming. If it’s been just a slightly cold night and there is a thin layer of ice on the pool, I just break it up and they are good to go. But if the weather forecast shows multiple days of cold weather, I just dump out their pool for a few days. I think they miss swimming during those cold times, because they jump in their pool with pure joy on the next warm day!
Here’s a picture of the ducks’ house when I went out to collect eggs this morning:
The aviary netting is holding up very well, even with a bit of a snow load. I did get pretty good quality aviary netting, though. It is actually made so that snow will mostly fall through it, and it can take quite a bit of weight before it will break.
Before the winter began, I was actually quite worried about how the snow would affect the ducks. How would they react to having a snowy yard? Would their feet freeze? I am happy to report that they don’t seem to mind the snow at all, and there has been no frostbite thus far.
Even though they always have food and water in their pen, they actually choose to eat the snow frequently. I’m not sure why, but they seem to like it.
When the snow covers the ground in their pen area, I make sure to both shovel snow and sprinkle wood-chips on some of the yard. They are pretty smart – although they will walk around on the snow for a time, they always end up staying on the wood-chips and laying down there. I think this has helped prevent frostbite so far.
Since the winter has begun, I have noticed that the ducks are going through more food than before. This was expected, as the ducks are using up more calories in staying warm in the cold. But on all but the coldest days, they seem perfectly happy out there in the cold, which makes me feel good. I have also noticed that their eggs are a bit smaller than they were in the summer and fall, but still pretty large. They are also producing eggs almost every day, but I am also supplementing their light right now. I give them enough extra light to equal 14 hours per day. Just enough to keep them producing, but not enough to stress them out and hurt their health. So far, so good.
I’m going to miss these quackers when we move to Costa Rica, that’s for sure. I actually have quite a soft spot in my heart for them – especially for Macaroni and Moonbeam (the sort-of Runner ducks).
If you could only see their tushy-wagging waddle as they run off…!